Last week, I came across an article on the Huffington Post that reported the consumer watchdog group the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) intends to sue McDonald’s because Happy Meal toys “unfairly and deceptively” entice children into wanting the food.
Seriously? Where is the weight of parental responsibility? The last time I checked, small children were not driving themselves to McDonald’s, cracking open their piggy banks and ordering a 4-piece chicken nugget Happy Meal with fries and a chocolate milk and oh, can I please have the Littlest Pet Shop toy with that?
According to the article in the Huffington Post, Michael Jacobson, executive director of CSPI, concedes that it is the parents’ responsibility too, but says including the toys with the meal is like “a door to door salesman coming to a family’s house every day and asking to privately speak with the children.”
“At some point parents get worn down,” Jacobson says. ‘They don’t always want to be saying no to their children. We feel like an awful lot of parents would be relieved if this one pressure was removed from them.”
Welcome to being a parent. The word “no” is a significant part of the vocabulary. And that door to door salesman business? If I don’t want a door to door salesman asking to speak to my kids, I have the power to close (or not answer) the door. If I don’t want my kids bombarded with McDonald’s and other fast food ads or ads for grocery store food pushed by cute and engaging characters, I know exactly where the “off” button on the television is.
I understand parents getting worn down and giving in from time to time. Trust me, “oh, all right!” has escaped my lips more than a few times. But I still get to be in control.
We just came back from a mini-vacation to Holiday World. We had McDonald’s on the way down and (gasp!) on the way back. Heading to Holiday World, we let the kids get Happy Meals — with apples instead of fries (no caramel dip because it makes a huge, sticky mess) and milk instead of soda. My choice, not theirs. Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so.
On the way back, we bought two #4s — the two cheeseburger and fries meal, threw in an extra cheeseburger and three small soft drinks to feed the whole family. No toys, but the kids were still happy to have Mickey D’s. We could have done the apples again, but I was trying to feed all five of us on less than $15 to keep us under our vacation budget.
And tonight we’re having the FitCity Roast Turkey, Sundried Tomato and Basil wraps with a side of fresh melon. Would my kids prefer to have McDonald’s again? Probably. But we won’t. Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so. And I don’t need the Center for Science in the Public Interest to fight that battle for me.
If CSPI wants to remove a parenting pressure for me, maybe they can help me figure out which school is best for my kid with sensory processing issues or how much freedom to give my 13 year old or how to convince the 11 year old that he’s too young to worry about getting a girlfriend.
Whether McDonald’s is giving away free toys in their Happy Meals? Small potatoes.